University of Alabama education professors ask for support in critical debate over racial theory

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Education professors at the University of Alabama say bills and resolutions that target critical race theory would hurt their ability to develop good future teachers.

The college’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee sent a letter this week asking higher education officials to join an effort to resist recent efforts at Montgomery to limit how schools address issues of prejudice and racism. The committee calls Critical Race Theory a useful lens that helps educators understand the importance of diversity and the systems that leave minority students and families behind.

“I would say it’s really important to establish for everyone that AU professors and Alabama K-12 educators don’t say, or think, that anyone is inherently racist,” said Sara McDaniel, professor who chairs the committee. “You can’t learn it. It is not discussed. It’s not part of the value system or beliefs of anyone I know.

Teachers and professors “have a moral obligation” to speak about slavery, racism, segregation and other painful aspects of the country’s history without fear of reprisal, and should also be able to participate in training that helps them treat all students fairly and equitably, the committee wrote.

Read more: What is Critical Race Theory? Is this taught in schools in Alabama?

Proposed legislation and policy that targets critical race theory – an academic concept not taught in any K-12 school but which could impact teacher training and professional development programs – could hamper these efforts, they say.

State Representative Chris Pringle previously tabled a bill banning schools and universities from teaching critical race theory. The committee argued that restrictions on university professors would undermine academic freedom and “further restrain our state, our students, our families and our educators” by denying key training in concepts that help teachers understand key research, data and best practices.

Read more: State Board of Education discusses ban on Critical Race Theory.

The letter argues that in order for students to become successful educators for all children, the college needs the autonomy to help students “see the systems, practices and policies that do not support equitable education for all children. all the students”.

“Our country has a long heritage built on the slavery of human beings, and this has had repercussions throughout our history,” the letter said. “All of this has created gaps in wealth and achievement that educators, in many ways, are supposed to help resolve. “

McDaniel said the committee felt compelled to comment on the topic emerging in states across the country. More than 20 states have adopted or attempted to adopt policies that limit the ability of teachers to discuss issues of racism or prejudice.

McDaniel says CRT is often portrayed as a “bogeyman” in the culture war that takes place in schools. Critical Race Theory is an academic framework for how racism interacts with current society and politics, which has become a catch-all term in critiques of some schools’ efforts to expand history, diversity, and anti-racism efforts. In fact, it’s not taught in any public school in Alabama, and can usually only be found in college sociology classes and law schools.

The Alabama State Board of Education this month discussed a surprise resolution that would ban the teaching of “concepts that attribute fault, blame, tendency to oppress others, or need. to feel guilt or anguish towards people solely because of their race or gender ”in public schools.

It also included a claim that the American and Alabama are not inherently racist, a statement the letter’s writers said they agree with – and a principle that critical race theory does not assert. .

The topic is expected to return for possible discussion at the July board meeting and could be voted on in August.

“If something like this happens, it would have a huge impact not only on what we teach in college classrooms – how we prepare our students – but also on the types of training we can provide,” McDaniel said.

Opponents of the CRT, including the Alabama Eagle Forum and the Alabama Policy Institute, two conservative groups, say critical race theory “will place the blame, blame, tendency to oppress others or guilt on people. solely because of their race or gender violates the premises of individual rights, equal opportunity and individual merit, ”according to a proposed draft resolution the organizations released earlier this month.

“They’re trying to make it look like the CRT teaches everyone to hate their skin color,” McDaniel said. “It’s not really that. But there is a lot of misunderstanding now around what it is. A lot of people don’t have the time or don’t take the time to really study what it really is.

The committee hopes the letter, McDaniel said, will gain the support of the university in the critical debate over racial theory.

“We would love to see them call a meeting with the state Board of Education, including the superintendent, and all sit down together so that we can have conversations and explain our position,” McDaniel said. “We’re in the trenches, doing the work, researching and writing the books. We would like to be at the table when it is discussed before it is voted on, or whatever the next step, on [the board’s next meeting on] August 12.

As of June 25, the committee had not received a response from university officials to their letter.

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